Florida became better educated in 2013; state is leader in home vacancies, retail workers

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ORLANDO, Florida — Floridians became a little better educated last year, were middle-of-the-pack in having access to the Internet and had the nation's highest concentration of retail workers.

The U.S. Census Bureau released new figures Thursday that capture the lives of Floridians last year and how they changed from 2012.

Overall, 2013 wasn't much different from 2012. Many factors such as the poverty rate, income inequality, the rate of residents without health insurance and the home vacancy rate remained unchanged. Florida was at or near the top of states with the nation's highest concentrations of vacant homes, retail workers in the labor force and rates of residents without health insurance. Florida also was near the top in concentrations of residents who spoke Spanish in their homes.

Here is what the one-year 2013 American Community Survey tells us about the residents of the Sunshine State. The survey only includes counties with populations greater than 65,000 residents.

POVERTY: Florida's poverty rate in 2013 remained unchanged from the previous year at 17 percent. It was the nation's 15th highest. The counties with the highest were Alachua, whose rate was inflated by a concentration of nonworking university students, and Putnam. Clay and St. Johns counties had the lowest poverty rates.

LABOR FORCE: More than 1 in 5 Floridians worked in the education and health care industries, the largest concentration by industry-category in the state. The next highest was retail sales. Florida tied Arkansas with having the nation's highest rate of retail workers at about 1 out of 7.5 employees in the labor force.

By occupation, a third of the workforce was in management, business, sciences or arts jobs, placing Florida in the bottom 40 percent compared to other states. A fifth of Florida workers were in service jobs. Florida trailed only Nevada, Hawaii and New Mexico in having the nation's highest rate of service workers in its labor force. Citrus and Collier counties had the highest rates of service workers, while Seminole and Santa Rosa counties had the lowest.

HEALTH INSURANCE: The rate of Floridians without health insurance stayed the same in 2013 from the previous year — 20 percent. Florida ranked behind only Texas and Nevada in having the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation. The counties with the highest rates of the uninsured were Miami-Dade and Osceola counties; the ones with the lowest rates were Sumter and St. Johns counties.

INCOME INEQUALITY: Florida's income inequality remained unchanged from the previous year, and the Sunshine State kept its status as the sixth most unequal place in the nation, trailing only the District of Columbia, New York, Connecticut, Mississippi and Louisiana. Monroe and Collier counties had the greatest inequality, while Sumter and Nassau had the smallest.

COMPUTER AND INTERNET ACCESS: Almost three-quarters of Floridians had Internet access and almost 85 percent had a computer, placing it well in the middle of the pack of other states. The counties with the highest rates of broadband access were Seminole and Clay counties, while those with the lowest were Putnam and Highlands counties.

HOUSING: Florida had one of the nation's highest vacancy rates, with 1 out of 5 homes unoccupied; only Maine and Vermont had higher rates. But rates for those three states were inflated by the large numbers of second-homes and vacation rentals. Because of that vacation inflation, Monroe and Bay counties had the highest vacancy rates in Florida. Hillsborough and Santa Rosa counties had the lowest vacancy rates.

EDUCATION: Slightly more than 27 percent of Floridians had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2013, a slight increase over the previous year. Florida's ranking puts it in the second-lowest quintile of the 50 states. The counties with the highest rates of residents with a bachelor's degree were Leon, St. Johns and Alachua counties. The lowest rates were in Putnam, Hernando and Highlands counties.

SPANISH SPEAKING: Slightly more than 1 in 5 Floridians spoke Spanish in their homes, a rate unchanged from the previous year. Only Texas, California, New Mexico and Nevada had higher rates of residents who spoke Spanish at home.

FOREIGN BORN: Close to 1 in 5 Floridians were foreign born, a rate only surpassed by California, New York and New Jersey. Of Florida's foreign-born residents, more than half were naturalized, as of 2013, and almost three-quarters of them came from Latin America. Only New Mexico had a higher rate of its foreign-born from Latin America. The highest concentrations of foreign-born residents were in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The lowest rates were in Columbia, Nassau and Sumter counties.


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